KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Huge Hospital Merger In The Works

If approved, Community Health Systems will buy Health Management Associates, resulting in a chain of 206 for-profit hospitals.

The Associated Press: Community Health Plans $3.9B Acquisition
Community Health Systems Inc. plans to spend $3.9 billion to acquire Health Management Associates Inc. in a deal that would create a giant U.S. hospital chain just as the health care overhaul starts funneling millions of newly insured people into the health care system. But Community Health wants to buy its fellow hospital operator at a discount, with shareholders assuming some of the risk that the company faces from federal investigations (Murphy, 7/30).

The New York Times: Community Health Agrees To Buy H.M.A. For $3.6 Billion
Regulators have been investigating H.M.A.’s patient admission practices. (Community Health recently disclosed a subpoena from the Justice Department over a similar matter.) If approved, the deal would create a big for-profit hospital system with 206 hospitals in 29 states, many of which are in rural areas. It is the latest move by Community Health, which has struck 25 deals in the last six years (De La Merced, 7/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Community Health Strikes Deal To Merge 206 Hospitals
The combination would bring together two companies facing similar business and regulatory challenges. Both reported earnings this week that fell well short of analysts' expectations, results tied to declining patient volumes at their largely rural hospitals. Both also face continuing government investigations into aspects of their operations (Mathews, 7/30).

Modern Healthcare: Activist Shareholder Skeptical Of Community's Bid For HMA
Community Health Systems' ... billion bid to acquire Health Management Associates is facing a skeptical reaction from the hedge fund shareholder that had been pushing for a deal in the first place. Glenview Capital Management, the activist shareholder which has been agitating for a change of control at HMA since May, is pressing forward with the consent solicitation process to unseat HMA's current board of directors and bring in a new slate (Kutscher, 7/31).

Georgia Health News: National Hospital Merger To Be Felt In Georgia
The proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Health Management Associates by Community Health Systems would unite five Georgia hospitals as part of a huge new chain. The deal reflects the hospital consolidation accelerating across the nation, ignited in part by the health reform law of 2010 (Miller, 7/30).

In other hospital news, Consumer Reports issues its own set of hospital ratings - 

Consumer Reports: Your Safer-Surgery Survival Guide
Surgery is scary. It usually involves having your body cut open, and sometimes things go wrong. … Perhaps scariest of all, though many hospitals now gather data on those problems, patients for the most part remain in the dark about surgical safety. Industry insiders have access to some of that information because hospitals track how well patients do and report results to state and national officials. … Our new surgery Ratings are part of an ongoing effort to shed light on hospital quality and to push the health care industry toward more transparency (7/30).

Reuters: For Surgery, Big And Famous Hospitals Aren't Always The Best
In the first effort of its kind, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine released ratings of 2,463 U.S. hospitals in all 50 states on Wednesday, based on the quality of surgical care. The group used two measures: the percentage of Medicare patients who died in the hospital during or after their surgery, and the percentage who stayed in the hospital longer than expected based on standards of care for their condition. Both are indicators of complications and overall quality of care, said Dr John Santa, medical director of Consumer Reports Health (Begley , 7/31).

NBC News: 'Top' Hospitals Aren’t Always Tops, New Report Finds
The top hospitals don't always live up to their reputations when it comes to handling surgery, according to a new report released on Wednesday. Consumer Reports used newly available federal government data to look at how patients fared after surgery at nearly 2,500 hospitals in 50 states. The report found some of the big-name hospitals did not always do well in preventing infections and other measures of quality care, while some busy urban hospitals that care for the poorest and sickest patients often did surprisingly well (Fox, 7/31).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.